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Theater Designs 

in the Collection 
of the 


The Smithsonian 
National Museum 
of Design 

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Theater Designs 

in the Collection 
of the 


The Smithsonian 
National Museum 
of Design 


Attributed to Francesco Galli da Bibiena 

(1659-1739), Italy (Bologna) 

Stage Design for a Town Square, 1720S-1730S 

Pen and brown ink, gray, blue, and pale rose 

wash; 28.8X42.4 

Friends of the Museum Fund; 1938-88-50 

Inside Front Cover: 

Robert Benard (active 1734-1772), France, after 

Radel (18th century), France 

Theatrical Machines for Movable Clouds at 

L'Opera, Paris, tjji (From Denis Diderot, 

Encyclope'die, vol. 10, Recueil de Planches sur les 

Sciences, les Arts Liheraux et les Arts Mechaniques 

avec leur explication, plate 15.) 

Engraving; 39.1X47.2 

Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Richard B. Freund; 


All measurements are given in centimeters. 

This handbook has been made possible by a 

generous grant from the Andrew W Mellon 

Foundation and the Mobil Corporation. 

Photographs by Scott Hyde 

Design by H + 

Typography by Trufont Typographers 

Printing by Rembrandt Press, Inc. 

5 1986 by The Smithsonian Institution 
All rights reserved 

Library of Congress Catalog No. 84-45912 
ISBN: 0-910503-46-X 


i. Eugene Berman (1899-1972), United States (born in 


Stage Set for Act One, Scene Two, of "Don Giovanni'by 

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, 1957 

Pen and black and red ink, watercolor; 15.2 X 13.7 

Purchased in memory of Ogden Codman; 1958-138-3 

The art of theater is said to be the oldest and one of the most powerful 
and immediate of the arts. It is, one might add, one of the more 
ephemeral, too. The reality of a play, an opera, or a ballet is short- 
lived; it exists only during the brief span of a performance. While 
we now have the means to document theatrical events electronically, 
the only visual hint we have of theater in previous times is through 
designs for theater architecture, costumes, and stage sets. 

The Cooper- Hewitt's large and magnificent collection of theater 
designs attests to the important role theater has played in the lives of 
people. The drawings in the collection have been executed in many 
different media and styles and provide a good history of theater over 
five centuries, beginning with the days when theaters had fixed 
architecture and when mechanical equipment, seating, and lighting 
were far less sophisticated than they are today. 

Stage sets and costumes were and still are intended to enhance 
the meaning of a theatrical event-to set the mood, give the 
effect-without distracting from the performers. They are vital in 
creating the make-believe that transports audiences beyond where 
they are to where they are expected to be. Although theater has been 
changed by technology and our high decibel life-styles, it has not 
lost its magic, and one prays that it never will. 

For their kind help in enabling us to present this publication on 
theater designs in the Cooper-Hewitt, we are deeply grateful to the 
Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Mobil Corporation, both 
strong supporters of the arts. 

Lisa Taylor 

2. Agostino Carracci (1557-1602), Italy (Bologna), after Bernardo Buontalenti (1536-1608), Italy (Florence) 
Stage Set for First Intermezzo of "La Pellegrina" : The Harmony of the Spheres, 1589 (print made in 1592) 
Etching and engraving; 24.1 X 35 
Gift of George Arnold Hearn; 1896-31-6 

"It is particularly fortunate that such a 
body of material should be found in the 
city in which American theatrical interests 
are concentrated, and we venture to sup- 
pose that it would be difficult to find else- 
where in this country an equally varied and 
interesting stock of original stage designs," 
wrote Rudolph Berliner in 1941 in a 
ground-breaking article about the Cooper- 
Hewitt Museum's large collection of the- 
atrical designs. In the four decades since 
then, the collection has grown enormously, 
to incorporate works done by the most 
recent theater, stage, and costume design- 
ers. The bulk of the collection, however, 
was purchased by the Museum in 1938 
from Mrs. Edward D. Brandegee. She, in 
turn, had acquired them from the sale of 
the collection of Giovanni Piancastelli 
(1845-1926), the first director of the 
Borghese Gallery in Rome. Piancastelli's 
passion was the art of perspective; from 
1870 to 1906 he collected well over twelve 
thousand drawings-most of which related 
in some way to Italian architectural or the- 
atrical design of the seventeenth, eigh- 
teenth, and nineteenth centuries. 

The strongest works in the Cooper- 
Hewitt theater collection today remain 
those Italian stage drawings done between 

the 1670s and the 1830s, particularly the 
powerful studies done by members of the 
famous Bibiena family (figures 16-17 an d 
Cover). Consequently, the overwhelming 
number of designs discussed here repre- 
sent Italian scenography of the baroque 
period and just after. But with the addition 
of other works from the Museum s collec- 
tion-not only from Italy but also from 
France, Germany, England, Russia, and the 
United States-we can trace the broadest 
outline of modern European theater from 
its origins in the Renaissance to the present 
day, not only in stage designs, but in theater 
architecture and costume designs as well. 
Piancastelli's obsession with perspective 
reflected in a small way the Renaissance 
artist's own consuming passion for the new 
art that allowed him to depict "reality" in a 
scientific and rational way. The first re- 
corded use of perspective to create a "real- 
istic" illusion in a stage set occurred in 
1508, when Pellegrino da Udine 
(c.1467-1547) created the setting for 
Ludovico Ariosto's La Cassana, the earliest 
comedy to be written in Italian. Pellegrino 
and those artists who followed him, such as 
Raphael, Gerolamo Genga, Baldassare 
Peruzzi, Andrea del Sarto, Giulio Ro- 
mano, and Bastiano da Sangallo, featured 

many of the same elements in their illusion- 
creating stage sets: a central axis, one-point 
perspective, a flat backdrop, and a sym- 
metrical, illusionary setting of an exterior 
scene conceived of as a framed paint- 
ing-with distance being conveyed by a se- 
ries of planes parallel to the picture plane. 
Some sixteenth-century sets used angle 
wings executed in relief in stucco, while 
others consisted of revolving prisms 
[periaktoi, as they were called), with each 
flat side done in perspective. All of these 
designs were for court-sponsored events, at 
which the duke or prince or pope was 
seated in the center of the hall or theater 
auditorium where the one-point perspec- 
tive could be viewed to best advantage. 
These Renaissance artists tried to revive the 
supposed perspective settings of the an- 
cient Roman theater. Their early attempts, 
which grew out of the humanistic milieu of 
the time, created something entirely new 
that has left its mark on the theater to this 

The first well-documented perspective 
stage designs were executed for wedding 
festivals. Beginning in 1539, and continu- 
ing for nearly two hundred years, many of 
these records (both visual and literary) de- 
rived from theatrical productions for 

3. Jacques Callot (1592-1635), France (Nancy), 
after Giulio Parigi (1571-1635), Italy (Florence) 
Stage Set for Third Intermezzo of "La Liberazione 
di Tirreno e d'Arnea" by Andrea Salvador/: The 
Realm of Love, 1617 

Etching; 20.5 X 29.0 

Purchased in memory of Mrs. William G. Fitch; 


4. Jacques Callot (1592-1635), France (Nancy) 
Stage Design, Illustration for Act Four Finale to "II 
Soltmano" by Prospero Bonarelli: Sacking and 
Burning of Aleppo, 1619 

Etching and engraving; 20.5 x 28.2 

Purchased in memory of Mrs. William G. Fitch; 



Medici weddings in Florence. By far the 
most famous of these Medici productions 
was La Pellegrina, a comedy performed on 
May 2, 1589, for the wedding of Grand 
Duke Ferdinando de' Medici and Chris- 
tine of Lorraine. Bernardo Buontalenti 
(1536-1608), the leading scenographer in 
late sixteenth-century Italy, designed the 
sets for the comedy and its adherent inter- 
mezzi (figure 2). (An intermezzo is an 
interlude or entr'acte between the acts of a 
comedy; the origins of both opera and bal- 
let lay in these intermezzi.) The designs, 
including this one for the first intermezzo, 
entitled "The Harmony of the Spheres," 
became landmarks in the history of sce- 
nography. Fashioned entirely of clouds in 
perspective, the scene shows the starry 
heavens where Necessity spins the Har- 
mony of the Universe, while Sirens, He- 
roes, Virtues, and Fates look on. Nuvole, or 
cloud machines (see Inside Front Cover), 





5. Stefano della Bella (1610-1664), Italy (Florence), after Alfonso Parigi (1606-1656), Italy (Florence) 

Stage Set for Finale to "Le Nozze degli del" by G.C Coppola: Equestrian Ballet and Ballet of Cupids and Cavaliers in Heaven, \byj 

Etching; 20.6 x 28.2 

Purchased in memory of Annie Schermerhorn Kane; 1946-30-1(8) 

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6. Nicolas Cochin (1610-1686), France, after 
Giacomo Torelli (1604/08-1678), Italy (Venice) 
Stage Set for Prologue to "La Finta Pazza" by 
Giulio Strozzi: Garden of Flora, 1645 
Etching; 23.4X30.5; A76 

became a constant feature of the theatrical 
setting throughout the baroque period. 
Never before 1589, however, had a non- 
structured, non-architectural, non-land- 
scape scene been shaped into a perspective 
stage design. 

More typical settings in the late 1500s 
and early 1600s included palatial court- 
yards (figure 3), town squares (figure 4), or 
royal gardens (figure 6). Many of these set- 
tings were designed by Giulio Parigi 
(1571-1635), Buontalenti's successor in 
Florence, the real center for advanced sce- 
nography during most of the sixteenth and 
the first third of the seventeenth centuries. 
Like Buontalenti, Parigi was architect and 

engineer to the Medici court. Parigi was the 
first artist to etch his stage designs (or to 
have them etched) and the first to spend a 
great portion of his time in theatrical en- 
deavors. As a result, his output was large 
and well recorded, and provides a rich doc- 
umentation of Medici theatrical produc- 
tions during the first third of the seven- 
teenth century. Parigi s setting for the third 
intermezzo to Andrea Salvadori's La Li- 
berazione di Tirreno e d'Arnea-a veglia (or 
nighttime entertainment) held on Febru- 
ary 6, 1617, for the wedding of Caterina de' 
Medici and Duke Ferdinando 
Gonzaga-depicts the Realm of Love (fig- 
ure 3). As seen in Callot's etching, the 

Realm of Love is a large piazza with six 
Composite columns supporting elaborate 
entablatures on either side; a mock battle 
between Constancy and Inconstancy has 
just been halted by Venus, who sits in the 
clouds with her retinue. Parigi's 1617 de- 
sign, which he borrowed from his own 1608 
setting, influenced decades of scenog- 
raphers after him (cf. figures 8, 9, and 13). 
Jacques Callot (1592-1635), one of the 
most talented printmakers of the baroque 
period, created imaginary stage represen- 
tations (figure 4) to be used as illustrations 
in a playbook, // Solimano, published in 
1619 in Florence. The play had actually 
been performed only the year before in 

7. Giovanni Battista Galestruzzi (1615/18-after 

1669), Italy, after Giovanni Francesco Grimaldi 

(1606-1680), Italy (Rome) 

Stage Set for Scene Three of "La Vita Humana 

overo II Trionfo delta Pieta" by G Kospigliosi and 

M. Marazzoli: Garden Scene, 1656 

Etching; 39.7X31.5 

Friends of the Museum Fund; 1938-88-8566 

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Ancona; by the end of the century, J7 
Solimano, a tragedy concerning Suleiman 
the Magnificent, became one of the most 
popular plays ever produced in Italy. Cal- 
lot, who worked for many years as Parigi's 
assistant, undoubtedly used his master's 
sketches in designing the classically sol- 
emn, tripartite perspective setting. The 
flames and smoke that engulf this scene of 
pillage, while not actually simulated for a 
real production, were sometimes depicted 
by Parigi in staged hell scenes. 

Parigi's son Alfonso (1606-1656) carried 
out his father's designs in new, far grander 
ways. In 1637, for yet another Medici wed- 
ding-this time between Grand Duke Fer- 

dinando II de' Medici and Princess Vit- 
toria della Rovere of Urbino-the Pitti 
Palace courtyard was transformed into a 
temporary outdoor theater. For the finale 
to this full opera production, entitled he 
Nozze degli dei (The Wedding of the Gods ) , 
Alfonso adopted a four-level, three-part 
stage setting of a cloud-filled heaven (figure 
5). The celebration of the marriage of 
Jupiter and Juno and all other gods and 
goddesses is represented. Below the upper- 
most level of the apotheosis of the gods, 
Castor and Pollux and other horsemen per- 
form an equestrian ballet (real horses were 
used); below them are a dozen cupids 
dancing on floating clouds; and the lowest 

level shows two dozen cavaliers perform- 
ing a circle dance while others create the 
letters F-0 and V-A, much in the manner of 
a football half-time spectacle today, for Fer- 
dinando and Vittoria, the wedding couple. 
With dozens of dancers, singers, and musi- 
cians on the stage, with the swirling move- 
ment of clouds, lights, and colors, the total 
effect must have been dazzling. 

The Parigi, the first scenographic family 
in Italy, influenced artists all over Europe, 
including Inigo Jones in England, Callot in 
France, Cosimo Lotti in Spain, and Joseph 
Furttenbach in Germany. In Italy, too, their 
impact was felt. Giovanni Francesco Gri- 
maldi (1606-1680) freely adapted his 


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8. Matthias Kiissel (1621-1682), Austria (Vienna), after Ludovico Ottavio Burnacini (1636-1707), Italy (Mantua, Venice) 

Stage Set for Act Five, Scene One of "II Porno d'Oro" by Francesco Sbarra: Villa of Paris, 1668 

Engraving ; 25 .1 X 43 .0 

Purchased in memory of Mrs. William G. Fitch; 1962-192-14 

garden setting of 1656 (figure 7) from 
Giulio Parigi's garden setting of 1608. Gri- 
maldi transformed the earlier design for 
the 1656 production of Rospigliosi's II Tri- 
onfo delta Pieta, an allegorical opera held in 
Rome to honor Queen Christina of 
Sweden. The delicate mannerist garden 
scene of 1608 had become the rather heav- 
ily ornate architectural space of the later 

Giacomo Torelli (1608-1678), one of the 
most famous Italian scenographers of the 

second half of the seventeenth century, 
owed a great deal to the Parigi. In his Vene- 
tian sets, Torelli basically followed the Flor- 
entine traditions of the single perspective 
vista, the architectonic forms derived from 
natural elements, and the pronounced 
symmetry of design. Like the Parigi, Torelli 
was a master technician whose marvelous 
machines and rapid scene changes awed his 
spectators. Torelli indirectly acknowledged 
his debt to the Florentine stage designers in 
the stage settings he created for the Pari- 

sian production of Giulio Strozzi's La 
Finta Pazza in 1645 (figure 6). This pro- 
logue setting of the Garden of Flora, de- 
signed to impress and honor Anne of Aus- 
tria, Queen of France, depicts many of the 
elements used by the Florentines (strict 
perspective that focuses the action, the use 
of machines and clouds). Included also is 
Torelli's development of the "median tran- 
sept," which tied the two sides of the set 
together at the focal point. The median 
transept, which first appeared in Giulio 

9- Ludovico Ottavio Burnacini (1636-1707), Italy (Mantua, Venice) 

Stage Design, possibly for "Enea in Italia" by A. Draghi and J.H Schmelzer Hall of Heroes, 1678 

Pen and black ink, gray wash; 62.6 X 92.1 

Friends of the Museum Fund; 1938-88-1 

Parigi's 1608 garden setting, was reused by 
many other designers well into the century 
(cf. figure 13). 

While Torelli continued to elaborate on 
his tightly focused, one-point perspective 
sets in Paris, Ludovico Burnacini 
(1636-1707) began to refine Torelli's Vene- 
tian settings in Vienna. Burnacini, son of 
Giovanni Burnacini (c. 1605-1655), Torelli's 
main rival in Venice, worked largely in 
Vienna at the Imperial Court Theater, 
where he designed innumerable sets. In 

1668, in celebration of the marriage of 
Leopold I, Francesco Sbarra's II Porno 
d'Oro was performed (figure 8). Burnacini 
created the Villa of Paris set on Torellian 
models, but an even earlier source was 
Giulio Parigi's setting of the Garden of Al- 
cina of 1625. The powerful architecture of 
Torelli and the exquisite details of Parigi 
have become weakened, and overly elabo- 
rated surface architecture has been carried 
out in a rather repetitious and dull perspec- 
tive. Ten years later, in his wonderfully de- 

tailed setting for Enea in Italia (figure 9), 
Burnacini carried out this same rigid per- 
spective to exaggerated lengths in a monot- 
onous progression of columns, relieved 
only by the magnificent surface decoration. 
About a decade later, the long line of the 
Florentine scenographic tradition came to 
an end with the work of Jacopo Chiavistelli 
(1621-1698). We know of only one produc- 
tion for which he could have created the 
sets: 11 Greco in Troia (figure 10), held in 
1689 in the Teatro della Pergola for the 

io. Arnauld van Westerhout (1651-1725), Flanders. 

after Jacopo Chiavistelli (1621-1698), Italy 


Stage Set for Act One, Scene One of "II Greco in 

Troia" by Matteo Norris: Outside Walls of Troy 

with Wooden Horse Being Pulled into City, 1689 

Engraving in libretto; 22.9 X 32.4 

Gift of the Friends of Drawings and Prints; 


wedding of Grand Prince Ferdinando III 
de' Medici and Princess Violante Beatrice 
of Bavaria. His rigidly defined setting of the 
Walls of Troy created a shallow acting space 
that tended to emphasize the action. Gone 
are the flights into infinite space, the tight 
symmetry, and the elaborate stage ma- 
chines, all so characteristic of earlier set- 
tings. His designs are more a reflection of 
the classical Bolognese paintings of 
Domenichino and Francesco Albani than 
of scenographic conventions. 

In Mantua, elaborate stage productions 
took place in the Teatro Ducale (later called 
the Teatro Vecchio). Giuseppe Mitelli 
(1634-1718), a noted Bolognese painter and 
printmaker, is credited with designing a 
setting for one such production. The draw- 
ing of this setting (figure 11), which was 
engraved by Mitelli, shows an elaborately 
developed proscenium arch-an element 

first employed in Florence almost a century 
earlier. The arch was meant to enframe the 
illusionistic, three-dimensional "picture" 
of the stage setting. Here the Teatro 
Ducale's proscenium displays the armorial 
bearings of the Duke of Mantua. On the 
sides, the female personifications of Sculp- 
ture, Vocal Music, Instrumental Music, 
and Painting are set into columned niches 
that support detailed entablatures. The 
scenography itself is stylistically connected 
to Torelli's Bellerofonte setting of 1642 and, 
even more, to Domenico Mauro's Divisione 
delMondo setting of 1675; all three settings 
use symmetrical sets, cloud machines, and 
twisted columns. 

Other finished presentation drawings of 
stage designs in the Museum's collection 
include magnificent studies given to 
Girolamo Fontana (active 1690-1714). 
Nephew of the famous theatrical architect 

Carlo Fontana, Girolamo Fontana took 
over the completion of the Galleria of the 
Palazzo Colonna in Rome around 1698. 
His involvement with the Galleria can be 
seen in this ornate setting of a celestial pal- 
ace floating on clouds before a landscape 
(figure 12). The comparatively understated 
proscenium arch of 1674 (figure n) has 
now given way to an undulating, cur- 
vilinear enframement. The same horror of 
the straight line is reflected in the setting 
itself, which recalls many of Torelli's sce- 
nographic solutions and also reveals the 
influence of Florentine models. 

About the time that these flamboyant 
designs were created, the architect Andrea 
Pozzo (1642-1709) published his major 
tract on pictorial and architectural per- 
spective, De Perspective pictorum et archi- 
tectorum (Rome, 1693). In it, Pozzo gives 
ideal solutions to constructing theaters and 

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n. Attributed to Giuseppe Maria Mitelli (1634-1718), Italy (Bologna) 

Design for a Proscenium and Stage Set for an Opera in Mantua: Courtyard with Athena and Apollo in Clouds and Soldiers Below, 1674 

Pen and brown ink over black and red chalk; 33.1X45.5 

Friends of the Museum Fund; 1938-88-114 

12. Attributed to Girolamo Fontana (active 

1690-1714), Italy (Rome) 

Design for a Proscenium and Stage Set: Grottoes 

with Celestial Palace, 1690s 

Pen and brown ink, gray and brown wash; 37X44 

Friends of the Museum Fund; 1938-88-23 

designing sets. The Museum owns a pre- 
liminary drawing of one such ideal scheme 
for a stage set of a palace courtyard (figure 
13), a design Pozzo later had engraved for 
his book. Rather than creating a new prin- 
ciple for scenography, Pozzo's treatise as- 
similated and documented all the various 
systems of stage perspective. We see in this 
design reminiscences of the one-point per- 
spective "flight into the infinite" of Torelli 
(figure 6) and Burnacini (figures 8 and 9). 
Pozzo's projections for the ideal theater 
saw partial fruition in the designs of Fran- 
cesco Galli da Bibiena (1659-1739) for the 
Teatro Filarmonico in Verona (figure 15). 
From 1715 to 1729, Francesco Galli da 
Bibiena, one of the better known members 
of this famous family, designed the theater, 
considered to be one of the most beautiful 
in Italy. Its inauguration took place on Jan- 
uary 6, 1732, with the performance of 
Vivaldi's Fida Ninfa. Commissioned by the 
Accademia Filarmonica, the theater was 
best known for its projecting boxes ori- 
ented toward the stage and its majestic pro- 
scenium. The detailed drawing by Joseph 
Chamant of the U-shaped auditorium (by 
then, a characteristic shape for a theater) 
may have served as a study for an engraving 
of the plan. The movable telari (flats) on 

the stage are shown next to the grooves for 
the horizontal telari; the forestage outline 
recalls Fontana's undulating stage front 
(figure 12). 

Half a century later, Baldassare Orsini 
(1732-1810) wrote a handbook on stage de- 
sign based on his experience in designing 
the stage and scenery for the 1781 opening 
of the Teatro del Verzaro (today, the Teatro 
Morlacchi) in Perugia (figure 20). This 
quick sketch by the young Giuseppe Bar- 
bed (1746-1809), a Roman architect known 
for his fantastic architectonic visions, may 
have been done after studies by the 
Perugian architect Vincenzo Cioffi (active 
1775-1805). Cioffi, in turn, must have 
worked at decorating the new building un- 
der the theater's chief architect, Alessio 
Lorenzini. In any event, in his handbook, 
Orsini uses just such a cross section of the 
Teatro del Verzaro to show how to establish 
the vanishing point and station point for 
perspective sets. For his handbook, Orsini 
looked not only at Pozzo and the Bibiena, 
but also at the theatrical illustrations in the 
new (1772) Encyclopedie by Diderot (see 
Inside Front Cover). 

By the time Andrea Pozzo wrote his 
treatise on stage design in 1693, the simple 
one-point perspective that he illustrated 

(figure 13) had fully run its course. Torelli 
continued, into the 1670s, to develop his 
designs on a strict, one-point perspective 
setting, as did Ludovico Burnacini, whose 
setting for Enea in Italia (figure 9) demon- 
strates how monotonous such a system can 
become, despite magnificent surfaces. 
Rigid adherence to a one-point perspective 
setting led in only one direction, as the 
Bibiena and the Galliari found. They broke 
with tradition and introduced the veduta 
perangolo, or the "vista at an angle." Diago- 
nal or oblique perspective could now be 
employed to show a plurality of visual axes 
with many vanishing points. The new per- 
spective could radiate at an angle to the 
picture plane, creating far more dynamic 
possibilities than the old system. 

Francesco Galli da Bibiena, brother of 
Ferdinando, is thought to have created one 
of the more spectacular scena per angolo 
designs in the Museums collection (see 
Cover), probably done as a presentation 
drawing; a variation exists in the Tordini 
collection in Milan. The dramatic crossing 
of the two axes, the ornateness of the imagi- 
nary architecture, the strong chiaroscuro 
from the lighting and the angle of view 
from below-all of these elements give the 
setting a sense of splendor and awe- 


someness. Francesco, working in Vienna 
for Emperor Leopold, constructed a mag- 
nificent theater for which this stage design 
may have been intended. 

Giuseppe Galli da Bibiena (1696-1757), 
nephew of Francesco, created numerous 
theatrical designs in the new veduta per 
angolo system. While working in Dresden 
for Emperor Charles VI, Elector of Saxony, 
he invented many stage designs and per- 
spective studies for J.A. Pfeffel to engrave 
for Arcbitettura e Prospettive (Augsburg, 
1740), a book on Giuseppe's art. One such 
veduta is owned by the Museum (figure 16). 
This complex view of an imaginary court- 
yard, used by Pfeffel to engrave plate 10 in 
Bibiena's book, contains numerous the- 
atrical references, although it probably was 
never meant for a stage setting. Because of 
the engravings in Arcbitettura e Prospettive, 
Giuseppe, perhaps the most successful and 
prosperous of the eight Bibiena, left a more 
complete record of his scenography than 
did any other member of his famous family. 

Among the many Bibiena drawings 
owned by the Museum are some that can- 
not easily be attributed to any one member 
of the family and are thought to be by 
students or followers. One such drawing 
(figure 17) shows a royal palace staircase 


13- Andrea Pozzo (1642-1709), Italy (Rome) 
Stage Design for a Courtyard, c. 1693 
Pen and brown and red ink, watercolors; 35 X 52 
Friends of the Museum Fund; 1938-88-4 

leading to a grand courtyard. While im- 
pressive in itself as a theatrical setting or as 
a study of a grandiose, Active architecture, 
the pen-and-ink drawing has the studied, 
meticulous air of the work of a pupil-in 
this case, probably a follower of Antonio 
Galli da Bibiena (1697-1774). Antonio, 
brother of Giuseppe, created many such 
dramatic staircases, with similar acornlike 
nobs and vase-shaped pins; his autograph 
designs, however, tend to be even more 
exaggerated in details and more elaborate 
in composition. 

The theatrical designs of the great Italian 
architect Filippo Juvarra (1678-1736) are 
also represented in the collection by the 
work of a follower (figure 14). Juvarra s 
inspired stage settings usually consisted of 
a spatial idea or architectonic thought 
translated into theatrical terms; his brilliant 
designs reveal his preference for pure fan- 
tasy rather than illusion. Unlike the Bi- 
biena, Juvarra invented imaginary succes- 
sions of parallel planes rather than an 
angular scene of opposing perspectives. 
The Museum's drawing, inscribed by a 
later hand "di Don Felippo Giovara," re- 
flects Juvarra's work in Rome: the tri- 
umphal arch and obelisk in the design bear 
the arms of Clement XI, pope from 1700 to 


14- Follower of Filippo Juvarra (1678-1736), Italy 
Roman Architectural Fantasy, c. 1710-20 
Pen and brown ink, pale lavender wash; 13.5 X 31.4 
Friends of the Museum Fund; 1938-88-166 


C. •*)..« •**■ 7"'"> 

o ' — •• 

15. Joseph Chamant 

(1699-1768), France, after 

Francesco Galli da Bibiena 

(1659-1739), Italy (Bologna) 

Plan for the Auditorium and 

Elevation of the Main Entrance 

to the Teatro Filarmonico, 

Verona, c. 1715 

Pen and brown ink, brown 

wash over black chalk; 


Bequest of Erskine Hewitt; 


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1721. The drawing appears to have been 
done by a student or follower of Juvarra, 
who himself designed many such tri- 
umphal arches and obelisks for festival de- 
cors; the setting, which has Turkish arms 
on a pedestal in the foreground, may relate 
to a festival honoring Pope Clement's part 
in ending the Turkish threat. 

Next to Juvarra and the Bibiena, the 
most famous name in Italian theater in the 
eighteenth century was Galliari. Through 
the work of the Galliari family, all of whom, 
like Juvarra, worked primarily in the Pied- 
mont region, the various emerging aspects 
of Italian stage design were fully de- 
veloped. In the Museum's beautiful study 

of a forum or courtyard (figure r8), given to 
Giovanni Antonio Galliari U718-1783), the 
youngest of Giovanni Galliari's three 
scenographer sons, the artist used a Juvar- 
rian triumphal arch and columnar monu- 
ment as well as a more developed Bibien- 
esque scena per angolo. Yet Giovanni 
Antonio's style, much influenced by his 
better-known older brother Fabrizio 
(1709-1790), exhibits a lightness and clarity 
in execution not seen in the Bibiena, as well 
as a more human-sized scale-which 
becomes a major element of all late 
eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century 

Gaspare Galliari (1761-T823) worked 

16. Giuseppe Galli da Bibiena (1695/96-1757), 

Italy (Parma) 

Architectural Fantasy, c. 1719. 

Pen and brown ink, gray and blue-gray wash; 

53.6 X96.1 

Purchased in memory of Mary Hearn Greims; 



17. Manner of Antonio Galli da Bibiena (1697-1774), Italy (Parma, Milan) 

Stage Design for a Palace Courtyard with Staircase 

Pen and brown ink, brown, blue, and gray wash; 50.2 x 64.7 

Friends of the Museum Fund; 1938-88-85 

18. Giovanni Antonio Galliari (1718-1783), Italy (Milan) 
Stage Design for a Palace Entrance with an Arch, 1770s 
Pen and brown ink, brown wash, and black chalk; 15.2X21.2 
Friends of the Museum Fund; 1938-88-41 

19- Angelo Toselli (c. r/65?-i827), Italy (Bologna) 

Stage Design for a Palace Courtyard, c. 1810 

Pen and brown ink, brown wash over black chalk; 


Friends of the Museum Fund; 1938-88-418 

with his father, Giovanni Antonio, in Milan 
and carried the family's scenographic tradi- 
tions into the next century. While close in 
style to the designs of his father and of his 
uncle Fabrizio, Gaspare's stage designs 
show a distinct tendency toward natu- 
ralistic decor mixed with a certain "roman- 
tic melancholy." Gaspares more realistic 
settings, which reflected the actual histor- 
ical or archaeological facts about a locale, 
influenced a whole generation of Italian 
scene designers. Most of these younger de- 
signers, including Felice Giani (1758- 
1823), Alessandro Sanquirico (1789-1840), 

and Antonio Basoli (1774-1848), are well 
represented in the Museum's collection. 
Angelo Toselli (c. i765?-i827) was another, 
lesser-known, Bolognese practitioner of 
the new style. His designs (figure 19), while 
revealing his connections to the Galliari 
and late eighteenth-century scenogra- 
phers, also display a more human scale, an 
interest in archaeological accuracy, and a 
sense of "appropriateness" to the play's 
subject matter. Just as the earlier scenogra- 
phers mirrored the painting and architec- 
tural styles of their times, so, too, did the 
nineteenth-century stage designer. Neo- 


20. Giuseppe Barberi (1746-1809), Italy (Rome) 
Section of the Teatro del Verzaro (later Teatro 
Morlacchi) in Perugia, Decorated by Vincenzo 
Cioffi, 1778 

Pen and brown ink, brown wash; 21.1X27.8 
Friends of the Museum Fund; 1983-88-115 

classicism, for example, clearly pervades 
Toselli's drawings. 

The influence of both neoclassicism and 
romanticism can be seen in the work of 
Karl Joseph Koebel (1796-1856). A German 
architect from Mainz who worked in Italy 
from 1817 to 1856, Koebel's 1815 sceno- 
graphic sketch (figure 21) shows how much 
more simplified nineteenth-century stage 
settings became. Gone are the imaginary, 
dramatic baroque structures; all is rational, 
with the simple one-point perspective of 
the Renaissance. Yet this view of an oriental 
temple typifies the nineteenth-century's ro- 
mantic nostalgia for faraway places and 
times. Koebel's straightforward, boxlike set 
also reflects the influence of the major 
Berlin scenographer Karl Friedrich 
Schinkel (1781-1841), whose Temple of 
Apollo for Gluck's Alceste Koebel surely 


Verismo, the Italian word for truth or 
realism, typified not only the new operas of 
the late nineteenth century, but also their 
settings. With the introduction of gas light- 
ing (and many other technical advances), 
the settings began to mirror more closely 
the realistic easel paintings of the period. 
Gaetano Malagodi (active 1850-1902), for 
example, depicted a cloister at night (figure 
22) in such a way that we can scarcely dis- 
tinguish his watercolor study as being a 
design for the theater. Malagodi, who 
worked in Rome at the Teatro Apollo dur- 
ing the 1860s and 1870s before settling in 
Bologna, designed his stage setting to 
create the naturalistic illusion of an oil 
painting. Realistic scenography, in fact, in- 
troduced the idea of real space with life- 
size, "real" objects in that space. Yet taken 
to the extreme, verismo sets eventually be- 
came dull historical reconstructions. 

Originality and excitement returned to 
theatrical design during the early twentieth 
century. With the design centers shifting 
from Milan and Rome to Moscow and 
Paris, Russian artists such as Leon Bakst 
(originally Lev Samoylovich Rosenberg, 
1866-1924), Simon Lissim (1900-1981), 
Pavel Tchelitchew (^98-1957), and Eu- 
gene Berman (1899-1972) created some of 
the most splendid theatrical designs ever 
produced. Bakst, known for set designs 
that introduced volumetric forms on stage, 
revolutionized the design of costumes (fig- 
ure 23). To him, the costume played as 
great a part in the entire theatrical experi- 
ence as the setting, the lights, and the mu- 
sic. Through the use of scarves, robes, and 
spears, his costumes enhanced the dynamic 
movement and form of the performers, as 
seen in this beautiful watercolor study of 
two pirates' costumes from Michel 


21. Karl Joseph Koebel (1796-1856), Germany 
(worked in Rome) 

Stage Design for the Entrance to an Oriental 
Temple, 1815 

Pen and black ink, watercolor; 12.9 X 19.8 
Friends of the Museum Fund; ^38-88-422 


22. Gaetano Malagodi (active 1850-1902), Italy 
(Rome, Bologna) 

Stage Design for a Cloister at Night, 1869 
Pen and black ink, watercolor; 23 x 34.5 
Friends of the Museum Fund; 1938-88-447 

Fokine's ballet Daphms et Cbloe. The pro- 
duction by Sergei Diaghilev's Ballets 
Russes, with music by Maurice Ravel, pre- 
miered at Paris's Theatre du Chatelet on 
June 8, 1912, with Vaslav Nijinsky dancing 
the part of the shepherd Daphnis. The pi- 
rates' almost expressionistic costumes typ- 
ify Bakst's love of brilliant colors and arch- 
aic forms inspired by Greek art. In 1913, 
when he painted these studies of his 1912 
designs, he was at the height of his career in 

Bakst's richly inventive designs appealed 
to many young Russian emigre artists in 
Paris, including Erte and Simon Lissim. 
Although the production was never 
mounted, Lissim designed the stage set of 
the interior of Elsinore Castle for Shake- 
speare's Hamlet (figure 26) in 1925 for the 
Theatre de l'Oeuvre in Paris. Only in his 
early twenties at the time, Lissim was an 


23. Leon Bakst (1866-1924), Russia 

(worked in France) 

Costume Design for the Pirates in "Daphnis et 

Chloe," by Michel Fokine, 1913 

Pencil and watercolor; 26.8 x 39.5 

Gift of Mrs. MacCuloch Miller; 1947-77-2 

intimate of all the Russian emigres, falling 
under Bakst's influence, as well as under 
the influence of the major personalities of 
the French modernist theater. Lissim was 
known for designing his sets with the sim- 
plest of means. In the Hamlet set, for exam- 
ple, he exhibits his knowledge of both 
French art deco and Russian con- 
structivism (particularly of scenographer 
Alexandra Exter, 1884-1949), which he 
merged with strong desires for simplicity, 
fluidity, and mobility. 

Like Lissim, Tchelitchew was a Russian 
emigre who spent most of his career in the 
United States and, also like Lissim, was 
deeply involved with the art movements of 
his time. Tchelitchew is best known today 
as a surrealist painter; his famous Hide and 
Seek oil painting of 1940-42 is now in the 
Museum of Modern Art. However, he also 
executed many brilliant ballet designs in 


the '30s and '40s for Diaghilev and George 
Balanchine. One such costume design, a 
ballet costume of a masked figure, is in the 
Museum's collection (figure 32). The sug- 
gestion of a Renaissance costume could 
mean that this is a sketch for a character in 
an unrealized production of Shakespeare's 
The Tempest, designed by Tchelitchew in 
1944. In any event, his costume designs, 
which were often constructed in a spiraling 
or circular manner, always created a great 
sense of movement and energy in what he 
called the "spherical dimension of life." 

Both Tchelitchew and Berman were key 
figures in a type of surrealist painting 
known as "neo-romantic," which concen- 
trated on the effects of mystery and fantasy. 
Like the other Russian theatrical designers, 
Berman had emigrated to Paris, living there 
from 1918 to 1936, before settling in the 
United States; 1936 also marked Berman's 

debut as a stage designer. During his many 
visits to Italy, he became fascinated with 
Italian architecture. This design for the 
palace terrace setting for Mozart's Don 
Giovanni (figure 1, one of three variations 
owned by the Museum) shows Berman's 
captivation with the evocative, timeless 
quality of Italian architecture. Don 
Giovanni, produced in 1957, was one of 
many stage designs Berman created for the 
Metropolitan Opera; others included sets 
for Rigoletto in 1952 and The Barber of 
Seville in 1954. His Don Giovanni set cre- 
ates a compact, closed environment, yet 
one full of movement and playful fantasy. 
The influence of these Russian designers 
was felt not only on the Continent and in 
America, but also in England. There, Ed- 
ward McKnight Kauffer (1890-1954) de- 
signed powerful costumes (figure 24), the 
stylistic origins for which lay with Bakst, 

24. Edward McKnight Kauffer (1890-1954), 

United States (active in England) 

Costume Design for King Henry in "Henry IV" by 

Luigi Pirandello, 1925 

Pencil and gouache; 47.3X31.0 

Gift of Mrs. E. McKnight Kauffer; 1963-39-170 

Lissim, Exter, Malevich, Tatlin-and par- 
ticularly with Tchelitchew's geometric cos- 
tume designs of the early 1920s. An Amer- 
ican who spent almost his entire artistic 
career in London, McKnight Kauffer cre- 
ated numerous award-winning posters for 
the Underground and other British enter- 
prises, as well as designing magazine ad- 
vertisements and illustrations. He was 
among the first commercial artists in En- 
gland to incorporate the new European art 
movements, such as cubism and con- 
structivism, into his work. The costume 
design illustrated here was for the charac- 
ter of King Henry in Luigi Pirandello's 
Henry IV, for a production at the Every- 
man Theatre at Hampstead, London, 
which opened on July 12, 1925 (it had pre- 
miered in Milan only three years earlier). 
The avant-garde nature of the costume 
clearly suited Pirandello's existential 


25. Donald M. Oenslager (1902-1975), 

United States (New York) 

Stage Set for Acts One and Two of "On Whitman 

Avenue" by Maxine Wood: Tilden's Home, 1946 

Pencil and watercolor; 36.5 X 61.0 

Gift of the artist; 1960-226-10 

26. Simon Lissim (1900-1981), Russia (worked in Paris and New York) 

Stage Set for Act Four, Scene Two, of "Hamlet" by William Shakespeare: Castle Interior, 1925 

Pen and black ink with watercolor; 39.8 X 64.7 

Gift of the artist; 1936-65-1 


Bakst's influence was also felt in the the- 
atrical work of Umberto Brunelleschi 
(1879-1949), an Italian artist who lived and 
worked in Paris from 1900 to 1940. His 
settings of 1917 for Le Felene took Bakst's 
aesthetic and translated it into a floral styl- 
ization. The Museum owns one of his 
costume designs of 1914 (figure 27), 
which-except for the Bakst-like bright 
color and pattern-bears a closer rela- 
tionship to Aubrey Beardsley's illustrations 
and Venetian eighteenth-century themes. 
This design, in fact, is for a luxurious al- 
bum Brunelleschi illustrated, entitled 
Masques et Personnages de la Comedie Ital- 
ienne. The costume for the commedia 
dell'arte character he chose to illustrate, 
Florindo, may never have actually been 

27. Umberto Brunelleschi (1879-1949), Italy 

(worked in France) 

Costume Design for the Commedia dell' Arte Figure 

"Florindo," 1914 

Pen and black ink with gouache and watercolor; 


Friends of the Museum Fund; 1967-40-1 

28. Freddy Wittop (b. 1921), United States 
Costume Design for Angela Lansbury in "Dear 
World " by Jerry Herman, 1969 
Watercolor and gouache; 50.7X33.0 
Gift of the artist; 1971-1-7 

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The Museum is fortunate to own some 
excellent examples of twentieth-century 
American stage design. Donald Oenslager 
(1902-1975), Robert Edmond Jones 
(1887-1954), and Oliver Smith (b. 1937) 
gave several of their designs to the Cooper- 
Hewitt. One of Oenslager's designs is for 
the stage set for the first and second acts of 
Maxine Wood's On Whitman Avenue (fig- 
ure 25). The play, which opened at the Cort 
Theatre in New York on May 8, 1946, was 
directed by Margo Jones and produced by 
Canada Lee, who also played the leading 
lady. The setting shows the Tilden's home 
in a suburban Midwest development. Dur- 
ing 1946, Oenslager was director of the 
Chicago Institute of Design, taught at Yale 
University, lectured widely, and designed 
thirteen stage settings for the Metropolitan 

Opera and Broadway (including Garson 
Kanin's Born Yesterday and Noel Coward's 
Present Laughter). The set for On Whitman 
Avenue exemplifies many characteristics of 
Oenslager's work: a simplified and essen- 
tial decor that is finely crafted, using the 
type of expression necessary to support the 
mood and character of the play. Oenslager 
employed his imagination to draw on all 
periods of stage design-whether the ba- 
roque, the romantic, the Russian con- 
structivism or an amalgam of these-yet his 
designs always remained imbued with a 
typical stylistic unity. Oenslager here has 
created a shallow acting area, featuring 
both inside and outside spaces in a straight- 
forward, cheerful setting for Wood's 
sprightly comedy. 

Oenslager influenced several genera- 

tions of set designers while teaching at Yale 
University, among them Robert Edward 
Darling (b. 1937). Darling has worked as a 
design assistant to Ming Cho Lee, design- 
ing sets for numerous productions and 
more than thirty operas, including Richard 
Strauss's Salome for the Vancouver Opera 
in 1969 (figure 30). Darling's neo-expres- 
sionist setting recalls Oenslager's Job set of 
1941 and his Prometheus Bound of 1939, as 
well as Oenslager's own Salome setting for a 
1934 production at the Metropolitan Op- 
era. Yet Darling's stage design for Salome is 
also a distinctive artistic statement that 
supports the underlying themes of Strauss's 
opera; the design, in fact, is characteristic 
of Darling's approach to scenography. 

As with the stage designs, contemporary 
American costume design often draws 



29. Robert O'Hearn (b. 1921), United States 
(New York) 

Stage Set for Scene from "Pique Dame" by Petr llich 
Tchaikovsky: A Ballroom, 1965 
Oil on canvas, 45.4x60.8 
Gift of the artist; 1970-49-23 


30. Robert Edward Darling (b. 1937), 
United States 

Stage Set for "Salome" by Richard Strauss, 1969 
Pencil and gouache; 34.5X43.0 
Gift of the artist; 1971-3-2 

upon an actual historical period for its in- 
spiration. Such is the case with Freddy 
Wittop's (b. 1921) beautiful designs for 
Angela Lansbury's costume in the Broad- 
way production of Dear World (figure 28). 
The musical, with music and lyrics by Jerry 
Herman (based on Jean Giraudoux's The 
Mad Woman of Cbaillot), opened at the 
Mark Hellinger Theatre in 1969. The deli- 
cately drawn costume study, with all its 
exaggerated feathers, lace, and frills, helps 
to create the Lansbury character. Like 
Oenslager, Robert O'Hearn, born in 1921 
in Indiana, has created some of his finest 
settings for the Metropolitan Opera. His 
sumptuous stage designs of 1965 for 
Tchaikovsky's Pique Dame (figure 29) in 
the Cooper-Hewitt collection recall the 
grandeur of the finest baroque settings and 
were carried out with the same enthusi- 
astic attention for detail and improbable 

Karl Eigsti (b. 1938), also an Indiana 
native, was resident designer at the Arena 
Stage (1962-64) in Washington, D.C., and 




31. Karl Eigsti (b. 1938), United States 
Stage Set for "Inquest" by Donald Freed, 1970 
Pen and black ink, watercolor, acrylic, 
and cut-out photographs; 31X41 
Gift of the artist; 1970-52-9 

at the Tyrone Guthrie Theatre (1969-70) in 
Minneapolis. In April 1970, when he de- 
signed the courtroom set for Donald 
Freed s Inquest (figure 31), he was principal 
designer at the American Shakespeare Fes- 

Not tied to one approach or style as 
earlier designers were, contemporary the- 
atrical artists choose from any style or 
period in fashioning their sets. Their pur- 

pose is always to support the play, opera, or 
ballet-to enhance the action and to further 
the illusion. The Cooper-Hewitt collection 
allows us to view the span of the theatrical 
arts from the late 1500s to the late 1900s, 
from Italy to France to America. And as 
Rudolph Berliner wrote in 1941, the "scope 
of the collection . . . cannot fail to satisfy." 

Arthur R. Blumenthal 

Selected General Bibliography 

Berliner, Rudolph. "The Stage Designs of the Cooper Union Museum," Chronicle of 
the Museum for the Arts of Decoration of the Cooper Union i, no. 8 (August 1941) : 

Blumenthal, Arthur R. Theater Art of the Medici. Hanover, N.H., and London: 
University Press of New England, 1980. 

Burdick, Elizabeth B., ed., et al. Contemporary Stage Design U.S.A. Middletown, 
Conn.: Wesleyan University Press, 1974. 

Enciclopedia dello Spettacolo. Rome: Casa editrice, Le Maschere, 1954-1962. 

Molinari, Cesare. Le Nozze degli dei: un saggio sul grande spettacolo italiano nel 
Seicento. Rome: Mario Bulzoni Editore, 1968. 

Monteverdi, Mario, ha Scala: Four Hundred Years of Stage Design from the Museo 
Teatrale alia Scala. Washington, D.C.: International Exhibitions Foundation, 1971. 

Oenslager, Donald. Four Centuries of Scenic Invention. Washington, D.C.: Interna- 
tional Exhibitions Foundation, 1974. 

Ricci, Giuliana. Dai Parigi ai Bibiena: bozzetti scenografici nelle collezioni del Museo 
Teatrale alia Scala. Prato and Bibbiena: Aziende Autonoma di Turismo di Prato, 1979. 

Scholz, Janos, ed., and Mayor, A. Hyatt. Baroque and Romantic Stage Design. New 
York: H. Bittner & Co., 1950. 

32. Pavel Tchelitchew (1898-1957), Russia 
(worked in France and United States) 
Carnival Costume Design, c. 1940-50 
Pen and blue ink; 24X15.3 
Gift of Alexander J. Yow; 1978-164-1 



3 9088 00074 6289 

Cooper-Hewitt Museum 

2 East 91st Street 

New York, New York 10128 

ICI '87